ACTION ALERT: Corporate Trade Deals Destroy the Environment: How About a TPP for the People?
June 6, 2016
CREDO Action & The Sierra Club & David Korten / YES! Magazine
If Congress passes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the massive corporate power-grab "trade" deal championed by President Obama, it would grant more foreign corporations powers to challenge US safeguards to our air, water and climate. Current trade agreements have been of, by, and for transnational corporations but growing opposition is giving us the opportunity to change that in our next-generation agreements.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is an Environmental Disaster:
ACTION ALERT: Tell Congress to reject the TPP
When President Obama rejected the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline to bring tar sands crude across our border and into the US, it was a huge victory for our health, safety and environment. It was the president's decision to make -- yet incredibly, our country is now being sued to the tune of $15 billion in damages by the Canadian pipeline developer TransCanada.
If Congress passes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the massive corporate power-grab "trade" deal championed by President Obama, it would actually grant more foreign corporations, like TransCanada, powers to challenge US safeguards to our air, water and climate. (1)
Congress has yet to vote on the TPP, which was ratified in February. The TPP is opposed by all the candidates for president, so if we can hold the line in Congress, we can stop it from becoming law.
ACTION: Tell Congress:
The TPP is a disaster for our environment. Vote NO on the TPP!
The TPP was written and negotiated in absolute secrecy, and it's easy to see why. It would eviscerate broad swaths of regulations that protect consumers, workers, the environment, and the soundness of our financial system.
The environmental implications alone are alarming: (2)
1 The TPP would give corporations in a dozen more countries power over our legal system, with access to the same legal mechanism TransCanada used to sue the US -- a legal panel of international lawyers set up under NAFTA which is not accountable to appeal or review to American courts. Corporations could sue to oppose regulations reducing methane emissions from fracking, increasing offshore drilling safety, or stopping oil and gas drilling on public lands.
2 The TPP would require the US Department of Energy to automatically approve all exports of natural gas to countries in the deal, thereby removing our government's ability to make decisions about our energy future while expanding dangerous fracking and climate emissions.
3 The agreement lacks strong, enforceable provisions to crack down on environmentally destructive activities like illegal logging, and overfishing.
Climate change demands urgent and swift action by governments to reduce carbon pollution and stop environmental destruction.
But the TPP would grow the dangerous precedent of taking power out of the hands of our leaders, and putting it into the hands of international corporations who value profit above all else.
Tell Congress: Don't trade away environmental protections. Vote NO on the TPP!
(2) "A DIRTY DEAL: How the Trans-Pacific Partnership Threatens our Climate," The Sierra Club [See below.]
A DIRTY DEAL: How the Trans-Pacific Partnership Threatens our Climate
The Sierra Club
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a broad trade, investment, and regulatory agreement between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. Eventually, other Pacific Rim nations from Indonesia to China could be included, as the TPP is a "docking" agreement that other countries could join.
The deal, which is more than 6,000 pages long, would require each TPP government to conform its domestic policies to a broad array of binding TPP rules. While government officials charged with promoting the pact have claimed the TPP would "preserve the environment," the Sierra Club's analysis of the final text reveals that the TPP would actually undermine efforts to combat climate disruption, and could threaten decades of progress on environmental protection.
The health of our planet depends upon our ability to make big changes in our economy. These changes include moving beyond fossil fuels and transitioning to 100 percent clean energy. However, the TPP would create new barriers to this much-needed transition. The agreement would:
1) empower fossil fuel corporations to attack climate and other public interest policies in private trade tribunals,
2) expedite natural gas exports, spurring additional hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"),
3) increase climate-disrupting emissions, and
4) impose new limits on climate and environmental regulations.
After years of extraordinary secrecy, it's finally clear what TPP negotiators were trying to hide: The TPP is a raw deal for communities and our climate.
NEW RIGHTS FOR FOSSIL FUEL
CORPORATIONS TO CHALLENGE CLIMATE POLICIES
After more than five years of closed-door negotiations, the governments of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries have finally released the text of the controversial pact. The TPP is a broad trade, investment, and regulatory agreement between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries. In its more than 6,000 pages of binding rules, the deal fails to even mention the words "climate change" -- a clear sign it is not "a 21st-century trade agreement," as some have claimed.
Beyond making no effort to combat climate disruption, the TPP would actually fuel the climate
crisis. If approved, the pact would increase greenhouse gas emissions and undermine efforts to transition to clean energy. The TPP's biggest threats to our climate are as follows:
1. THE TPP WOULD EMPOWER FOSSIL FUEL
CORPORATIONS TO ATTACK CLIMATE
POLICIES IN PRIVATE TRIBUNALS
* The TPP investment chapter would give foreign investors, including some of the world's largest fossil fuel corporations, expansive new rights to challenge climate protections in unaccountable trade tribunals. This includes the power for investors to demand compensation for climate policies that do not conform to their "expectations" or that they claim reduce the value of their investment.
These challenges would be brought before trade tribunals, comprised of three private lawyers who could order governments to pay fossil fuel firms for the profits they hypothetically would have earned if the climate protections being challenged had not been enacted.
* Fossil fuel corporations, including ExxonMobil and Chevron, have used similar rules in past agreements to challenge policies. Targeted policies have included a natural gas fracking moratorium in Canada, a court order to pay for oil pollution in Ecuador, and environmental standards for a coal-fired power plant in Germany.
The TPP would newly extend such foreign investor privileges to more than 9,000 firms in the United States, roughly doubling the number of firms that could use this "investor-state dispute settlement" system to challenge US policies. That includes, for example, the US subsidiaries of BHP Billiton, one of the world's largest mining companies, whose US investments range from coalmines in New Mexico to offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico to fracking operations in Texas.
* While the Office of the US Trade Representative claims to have inserted "safeguards" into the investment chapter, an analysis of the final text reveals that these so-called safeguards, many of which are not new, are far too weak to protect climate and environmental policies challenged by corporations in private tribunals.
2. THE TPP WOULD LOCK IN DIRTY FOSSIL
FUEL PRODUCTION BY EXPEDITING
NATURAL GAS EXPORTS
* The TPP would require the US Department of Energy to automatically approve all exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), a fossil fuel with high life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions, to all TPP countries including Japan, the world's largest LNG importer.
* By expediting US LNG exports, the TPP would increase the world's dependence on a fossil fuel with significant climate impacts and would likely displace cleaner energy sources such as renewables.
* The TPP would encourage construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure in the United States and in importing countries to enable trade in LNG, locking in the production of climate-disrupting fossil fuels for years to come.
* Increased LNG exports, which would be facilitated by the TPP, would also spur more fracking, leading to greater air and water pollution, and increased health risks.
3. THE TPP WOULD INCREASE CLIMATE-
DISRUPTING EMISSIONS BY SHIFTING US
* The TPP would force US manufacturers to compete directly with firms in low-wage countries, like Vietnam and Malaysia. The resulting offshoring of US manufacturing would spur not only US job loss, but also increased climate-disrupting emissions, as production in Vietnam is more than four times as carbon-intensive, and production in Malaysia is twice as carbon-intensive, as US production.
* A TPP-spurred shift in manufacturing from the United States to countries on the other side of the Pacific Ocean would also increase shipping-related greenhouse gas emissions, which are projected to increase by up to 250 percent by 2050 as demand for traded goods rises.
4. THE TPP WOULD IMPOSE NEW LIMITS
ON GOVERNMENT EFFORTS TO COMBAT
* Renewable energy programs that encourage local job creation could run afoul of TPP rules. The deal includes terms that the World Trade Organization (WTO) used to rule against a successful clean energy program in Ontario that reduced emissions while creating thousands of local jobs.
* The TPP also replicates provisions that the WTO has used to rule against environmentally friendly consumer labels. These rules would prohibit labels seen as "more trade-restrictive than necessary," restricting policy space for energy-saving or other labels that diminish climate-disrupting emissions.
* The TPP's procurement rules would restrict governments' autonomy to mandate "green purchasing," such as requiring energy to come from renewable sources in government contracts. Such policies could be challenged for having the unintended "effect of creating an unnecessary obstacle to trade."
Government officials charged with promoting the TPP typically ignore these threats to our climate, claiming instead that the pact's environment chapter would "preserve the environment." However, the chapter includes no provision that would protect climate and environmental policies from the myriad threats posed by other parts of the TPP.
Moreover, while all US trade agreements since 2007 have required trade partners to "adopt, maintain, and implement" policies to fulfill their obligations under seven core multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), the TPP environment chapter only includes this requirement for one of the seven MEAs.
This step backward from environmental protections negotiated under the George W. Bush administration contradicts the requirements of US law for fast-tracked trade agreements, and would allow TPP countries to violate critical environmental commitments to boost trade or investment.
While the TPP environment chapter mentions a range of conservation issues, the TPP countries' obligations are generally weak. Rather than prohibiting trade in illegally taken timber and wildlife, for example, the text only asks countries "to combat" such trade with insufficient measures, while allowing governments to avoid this weak commitment at their "discretion."
Even if the TPP's conservation terms included stronger obligations, there is little evidence to suggest that they would be enforced. The United States has never once brought a trade case against another country for violating its environmental commitments in a trade agreement, even amid documented evidence of violations.
The TPP poses a panoply of threats to our climate and environment. The Sierra Club believes that a new model of trade that protects communities and the environment is urgently needed -- one that overturns the polluter-friendly model of the TPP.
What If Trade Agreements
Helped People, Not Corporations?
David Korten / YES! Magazine
(June 4, 2016) -- Opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement has become so widespread that no US presidential candidate currently dares to favor it. European citizens likewise oppose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement.
This opposition presents an opportunity to propose international economic agreements that support efforts to meet the livelihood needs of all people in balanced relationship with a living Earth.
Existing and proposed trade agreements were negotiated in secret by and for transnational corporations. Each changes the rules to increase the ability of transnational corporations to make decisions once reserved for nations. The results of this radical social experiment are now conclusive. Corporate profits and the people who benefit from them are doing very well. Life is in decline.
Life survives and thrives only in healthy, vibrant, living communities, each rooted in its place on Earth and adapted to its distinctive characteristics. We humans have a special stake in the health of "our" place, including the purity of its air and water; the generative capacities of its soils, forests, and fisheries; the quality of its education and health care services; and the availability of good jobs for all who seek them. By this reckoning, a nation state is a self-governing living community.
By contrast, a transnational corporation is a pool of financial assets with no attachment to a particular place. Unless its employees are owners, they are subject to instant dismissal.
Captive to the demands of global financial markets to maximize short-term financial return, transnational corporations are prone to exploit every opportunity to shift costs from themselves to the communities in which they do business. They seek to employ the fewest possible workers wherever they can pay the lowest wages, provide the fewest benefits, pay the lowest taxes, and most freely exploit nature
When I received my MBA in 1961 from the Stanford Business School, economies and corporations were largely national and our professors taught actual market theory rather than free market ideology. I learned that markets operate efficiently only under certain conditions.
Those who reap the benefits of a decision must also bear its costs.
Economists call this cost internalization. It requires an ethical culture supported by rules to protect the health and safety of workers, consumers, and the environment.
Markets are competitive and open to entry by new players.
Individual firms must be too small to influence market price. Patent protection must last only for the time sufficient for innovators to recoup the costs of their invention plus a modest reward.
There is full transparency.
All decision-makers, including investors, consumers, and voters, must have the information required to make sound decisions.
Economies are national, correspond to political jurisdictions, and are largely self-reliant.
Each nation is sovereign and seeks to fulfill the livelihood needs of all its people using its own resources. All who need jobs are fully employed.
Exchange between economies is balanced and in goods for which each economy has a natural surplus and from which partner communities can benefit.
For example, the United States might exchange apples and pears with Central American countries for coffee and bananas. If the exchange is balanced, all benefit and none becomes indebted to another.
Application of these principles, which are essential to mutually beneficial trade and socially efficient market function, necessarily restricts the freedom of profit-seeking corporations. Free trade agreements strip away these restrictions and the ability of democratically self-governing peoples to secure the health of the living community on which they depend.
Growing public awareness and opposition creates a political opening to replace these agreements with next-generation international agreements that support the internalization of costs, the breakup of concentrations of corporate power, the sharing of beneficial technologies, full transparency, and local ownership.
It won't be easy. Yet the momentum is now on the side of negotiating such agreements to secure a just and sustainable future for all.
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